SURVEYING the field, longtime basketball patron Manny V. Pangilinan admitted not being used to what he was seeing.
But in time he will.
A lot of young and new faces welcomed the former president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) in his first-ever visit to the practice of this fifth batch of Gilas Pilipinas players at the Meralco gym.
“In a way naninibago ako,” he disclosed. “Kasi palagi yung national team then nandoon si Jimmy Alapag, si Ranidel (de Ocampo), Gary David, si Larry Fonacier, and others. Of course, I didn’t see Jayson (Castro), but I think they had a game kasi Sunday."
With the exception of Castro, Alapag and Co. had either retired from international basketball or have called it a career altogether.
Alapag is now a part of the Gilas coaching staff under Chot Reyes, while Castro actually unretired when Reyes came on board the national squad anew.
The players Pangilinan mentioned formed part of the Gilas core that beat South Korea in the semifinals of the 2013 FIBA-Asia Men’s Championship to reach the Fiba World Championship the following year in Spain -the first appearance of the country in the world stage after a 36-year absence.
The PLDT and Smart Telecommunications chairman however, warmly received the new faces in the Gilas team, mostly composed of cadet players.
“It’s refreshing to see young faces. I see new faces which is good in a way,” Pangilinan said. “A number of them are from the Gilas cadet pool who are now playing in the PBA.”
The Gilas team needs all the warm bodies it can sign since, as Pangilinan noted, it’s going a busy calendar for Philippine basketball starting off with the Southeast Asia Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship at the Smart Araneta Coliseum next month.
The Jones Cup in July, the Fiba Asia Cup and Southeast Asian Games in August at Lebanon and Malaysia, respectively, and the qualification round for the 2019 Fiba World Championship in November follow.
“Home and away yun (Fiba world qualification), six pocket tournaments, some will be played here and some will be played abroad,” added Pangilinan, now chairman emeritus of the SBP.